“Two Paltz:” Village and Town Potentially Merging

Photo Courtesy of Ulster County Tourism

The Village and Town of New Paltz are reevaluating the idea of a merger, which according to officials, could save taxpayers thousands and ease government operations throughout the area.

On Jan. 24, members of the Village Board and Town Council signed a joint resolution declaring they would fill out a grant application for the Local Government Citizens Re-Organization Empowerment Grant Program (CREG), which “assists local governments with the consolidation of a local government entity, or the establishment of a new coterminous town/village.”

The grant would be used to study what a single New Paltz government would look like, working off a 2014 study done by Fairweather Consulting that found cost burden would be equalized if the Village and Town combined.

While the idea of merging the two New Paltzes has been thrown around for decades, the last time it was seriously considered was in 2013, when elected officials and residents alike analyzed a study from the Finance Committee established to research consolidation which found residents could save up to $1.6 million if a merge were to occur.

Although questions arose about the Finance Committee’s methodology of the report, that wasn’t what ultimately sunk the prospects: a legal consultant found that state law only allowed the village to be annexed into the town or the town to be annexed into the village, options which did not appeal to pro-consolidators. 

What makes a merger more appealing now is not only a change in law, but New Paltz now has shared fire services, which is a big deal for those looking to merge since creating a fire district for the town would be costly.

In the past, former mayor Jason West rejected the idea of consolidation, saying, “In 40 years, no one has found a good enough or decisive enough reason for us to do this.” West was concerned about finances and argued that sticking with the dual-government was for the better.

Now however, Mayor Tim Rogers expresses the opposite, with him being the one who proposed reviving the idea of a merger and preparing a draft proposal outlining goals, changes, opportunities and how it would be achieved.

Rogers’ outline claims that just some of the benefits from consolidation include the centralization of local government operations, taxpayer relief and the opportunity to form a “communitywide comprehensive master plan.”

In a phone interview with the Daily Freeman, Rogers provided one way in which a coterminous government would simplify planning for local operations.

“A simple example involves … an inter-municipal agreement when we’re trying to cite groundwater wells at Moriello Pool park,” he said. “One board should review that, (but) it’s a co-owned piece of property so basically everything… in that project needs to be reviewed b y both boards. It’s just time-consuming and inefficient.”

“It’s about time. It’s going to happen eventually, whether now or in five to 10 years,” said Town Supervisor Neil Bettez to the Times Union.

If the board approves a plan for a merger, it could be on the ballot as soon as this November.